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Refs ARE to blame

When I red-carded Bryan Robson, the former Manchester United and England captain, in Johannesburg on 25 July 1993, I was vilified by all quarters of the football fraternity and especially the United fans.

Alex Ferguson came on television and said, “The ref wanted to be the star of the show.”

How prophetic those words were. How apt they are in the refereeing world of today

In a way, he’s probably right, but certainly not about yours truly.

Let me give you an example. Jeff Winter, a retired Premier League referee, and a poor one at that, wrote in his memoirs, “Who’s The Bastard in the Black”, that he deliberately played a bit of extra time in his final premier league game at Anfield (Liverpool), dallying until the ball was at the Kop end.

“The fans burst into spontaneous applause. It was longer and louder than normal, even for a home win”, Winter wrote.

How sick is that? How egotistical is that? How big-headed is that? Did he actually think they were sincere in their “admiration” for him? More likely they were glad to be rid of him.

You see, that’s what I think is wrong with refereeing today. This cult of the celebrity referee seems to be confined to the minds of the referees themselves.

Managers, like players, respect authority. They will take advantage of a referee who loves the limelight and can be swayed but they will not respect him.

I remember, some years ago, the late Joe Frickleton coming to one of our referees meetings and telling us quite openly that he had a dossier on each referee. He knew who would give him a penalty and who would not. He knew who would issue a red card and who would not and he made no apologies for taking full advantage of that. The same applies today,

The referees are too familiar with players and club officials and, as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.

If I was in charge of referees I would issue the following instructions to my match officials and anyone found to be in breach of these instructions would be demoted to the lower divisions.

  1. The hand shake before and after the game should be immediately scrapped. It has caused more trouble than it has solved and is hypocritical to say the very least.
  2. I would ban referees from explaining their decisions and engaging in what appears to be an inordinate amount of time justifying their actions.
  3. If a red card is required, then it is issued, regardless of the circumstances or the outcome from fans, players or club officials.
  4. Players or club officials would not be allowed to approach the referee before, during or after the game to protest a decision.
  5. The match officials must avoid any contact with club officials or players before, during or after the game other than what is required in the execution of their duties.
  6. Match officials should not be seen to be engaging in any form of social activity with club officials or players before or after the game.

I believe these are necessary for the referees to be seen to be objective while performing their duties on the field of play.

Referees have to remember that they are there to arbitrate a game between two teams of, in some instances, multi-millionaires whose only aim is to win. If that means cheating to achieve their object then so be it.

Please my referee colleagues – just do the job you are asked to do. If you’re in it for the money or the glory, then get out because you are only digging a hole for yourself.

Let’s bring some pride and respect back to the refereeing world and we will be thought more of by all concerned.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments so please keep them coming.

Happy Whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney

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